December Delights, and New Year Desires

December Delights, and New Year Desires

Once again I find myself having to say “I’m back!” This is becoming a habit, isn’t it? Hopefully we can buck the trend in the new year, but my reasons are just, I assure you! So, as we barrel forwards with our hectic whirlwind lives, so too must we take the time to reflect on the debris and detritus of our past. It’s time to review the year!

We started this year with the announcement of Happy’s Humble Burger Farm! The hamburger-hefting heifer-horror presented by Scythe, and ported by ourselves and SockMonkey to consoles. It seems like so long ago but the game is now out on all platforms and has been a great success. John and I really loved working with both teams on this, and we’re thrilled to see it perform well! We followed this up by announcing Strays, the now all-too-familiar chaotic canine caper that we’ve been working on this year. This became the focus of the rest of our year, and the blogs very much reflect this!

Here is the announcement for those who might not be familiar!

The next few weeks were dedicated to design and early prototyping and dealing with the fun and frolics of a new project. We had dodgy doors and destructible dice; our progress was fast, and mechanics were quickly taking shape. I did briefly allow myself the pleasure of sinking into a chunkier job, the event system; something that is now at the core of most mechanics in the game. However, it wasn’t long before we returned to rapid development.

With the core taking shape we added some flair; an animation for the dog so it seemed less… robotic. As an encore we used the event system to setup the chaos meter – our scoring system for level completion and progression. Suddenly your destructive endeavours meant something in the game! Dig spots were next, allowing you to create holes and bury objects, though for some reason, in the blog I only explain them in the video, instead waffling about visuals in the body itself!

Development was not always… Smooth.

We then tried restructuring the core code, splitting it into a more efficient layout. I used this more convenient layout to try and improve the movement… and failed! Never mind, we improve it later instead! Then it was all about filling holes and interfaces (This one has kitten pictures in it, so if you’re going to click any, click this one!) Tables came next, with legs you could break, and the blog became monthly, for two whole months. I also tested using an isometric camera… This did not stick around for long!

Then we had the demo level reveal! This is the level we want vertically sliced and ready to show off! A lot of it was pretty functional, but really showed us how much further we had to go! It was a huge morale boost seeing the game look more like a game and less like a testing level though. Then it was July, and we made FIRE! I also announced my new role as a lecturer and… Well, that’s where the blogs stopped.

Looking pretty good for a first draft!

The simple reason for our absence is that this is also where development stopped. For five months I was balancing preparing three modules worth of material, alongside teaching said material, and studying for my teaching qualification, which I am pursuing simultaneously. It was a lot. More than I had hoped. While I was prepared for the first semester to be difficult in a lot of ways, keeping my head above the surface was harder than I imagined. My #EgoProblems had to take a side-seat, and I don’t say that often!

Though it was hard, it was very rewarding. I’ve had a great time, and have discovered I really enjoy teaching! I guess the background for non-techies sections of this blog might have given that much away… That being said, after all my hard toil, once my material had been written and delivered, and my coursework submitted, I found myself with a hole in my being. Something was missing, something I needed. I needed to create!

A change is as good as a rest they say, so upon finally finding myself with some free time, did I stop? No, Strays was calling, and a semester of teaching had filled my head with ideas! As soon as I could, I jumped into Unity, and furiously began scheming. Step one. I needed to make the jump more consistent. I replaced a bunch of badly written floor detection code with a much nicer solution I had picked up while putting together course material. Suddenly the jump is no longer a laggy potluck as to whether it will trigger or not! However, the big task in my head was to make the grab work. For such a core mechanic of the game, I had really let it flounder and fail. I took it back to the drawing board. The result? Well, see for yourself:

Homnomnom Bone!

Already this has made a huge difference to the game. It’s no longer possible to catapult yourself into space by grabbing things (which may come as a disappointment to some), and the grab is far more reliable. You can grab smaller things, and you can grab them at any angle, at any point along the object, not just at the centre. This gives you the power to create levers and extend your reach, as well as just feeling satisfying and far more polished than the original.

Then the holidays truly hit, and today, as I write this now, is the first time I’ve had time to sit at a computer since fixing the grab! It’s been a Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a Happy New Year, and a wonderful holiday! In the new year I should be a little more organised, and although I cannot promise anything, if I find the time to update you all on this ongoing adventure, I will certainly do so! Here’s to a great 2023!

Matt out!

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